This article is created in partnership with Magnum After Dark a exclusive event brought to you by Magnum Ice Cream, celebrating self-expression and pleasure on June 17 at the Oxford Hotel starring JamarzOnMarz, Peach PRC, and Mia Rodriguez alongside a glitter bar, tattoo station and a virtual performance from a very special guest
Pop is no longer a dirty word or a guilty pleasure, if the emergence of the genre’s new young vanguard is anything to go by. One of pop music’s strengths has always been in its chameleonic nature: offering listeners and artists alike an avenue to escape and explore new and fantastical soundscapes.
Sometimes these sonic journeys are deliciously dark. Sometimes they’re hyped up and glossy.
For Mia Rodriguez, pop music encompasses the above and so much more. For Mia, pop music has been a saviour and a way for her to truly come into her own.
The 18 year old from Western Sydney was a star in her own right before landing a record deal that now sees her represented by City Pop Records in Australia, and Atlantic Records globally. To her fiercely engaged TikTok army that’s surpassed two million, the teenager was just ‘Mia’ when she made her debut a few years ago.
Jumping on board back when TikTok was the App Formerly Known As Musical.ly, Rodriguez became part of a new generation of content creators who were producing material for an audience who remained hungry. Moreover, they were constantly switched on. There’s no better way to build and curry favour with a fanbase than by being hyper accessible, and it was online on this platform that Rodriguez found her tribe.
It wasn’t a smooth journey, though. Like many young people growing up in an, let’s be honest, unforgiving digital age, Rodriguez experienced a severe level of bullying through her childhood and teen years. The years where we’re supposed to be experimenting, discovering our identities and flourishing were, for Rodriguez, spent being mercilessly mocked and denigrated, just because she was different – proudly so.
Watch the music video for ‘Psycho’ by Mia Rodriguez
“It was tough,” she remembers of her upbringing in a Western Sydney private school.
“It’s not as accepting because it’s so straight. Everyone was always against each other in that environment and I was bullied a lot. Especially because I am pansexual, I’d get told, ‘I hate lesbians,’ or ‘I would not have sleepovers with any girls if they came out as gay,’ …stuff like that. And then guys would sexualise it. Me being myself, I wanted to dress up and I just be myself. Be more out there. Most people I knew were close minded and it was very toxic.”
And so, it wasn’t long before Rodriguez found solace in an online community. She began making YouTube videos at ‘around 12 or 13’ – the early videos she admits are ‘cringy’ – and although she can remember drawing more bullies her way as a result, Rodriguez says that the idea of becoming a YouTuber was something that got her through.
Inspired by Troye Sivan, his talent and also his early successes, Rodriguez leaned further into her own unique style and individual artistry, exploring and developing her love for music and performing.
“I’d get made fun of so hard because of everything I did. No one liked it.” she says of those early days.
“I didn’t really care though, I just kept doing it because I did enjoy it. I’d think, ‘Hey, maybe one day it could lead to something great.’”
Propelling herself from YouTube to TikTok, the momentum for Rodriguez as a creator and musician picked up swiftly. From the beginning, Rodriguez has been driven by a desire to inspire others; to influence others who may feel like outsiders to embrace their uniqueness.
Watch the music video for ‘BEAUTIFUL & BITTERSWEET’ by Mia Rodriguez
As we’ve seen in the last two years alone, this desire has been met, and then some.
Her music, blending pop and electronic vibes together seamlessly, fits under the umbrella artists like Billie Eilish made a global sensation over. Rodriguez’s vocals, flitting between coquettish and powerfully dynamic, reflect the empowered youth of today. They’re ready to rail against convention, but relish their journey of self-discovery at the same time.
“It was so cool to see people all around the world bonding over my videos and sending me massive paragraphs saying how much I had inspired them,” Rodriguez says.
“It wasn’t for me, but I was glad that they were happy. I wanted to make them happy and I wanted them to express themselves, especially if they lived in an area that isn’t very accepting.”
With over 11 million streams on her single ‘Psycho’ alone, Rodriguez is still gearing up: we’re only just witnessing her ascent. Recently, her successes were acknowledged and celebrated at the Rolling Stone Awards where she was named Best New Artist. As the accolades and achievements continue to come in, Rodriguez is still mildly bemused that all of this is happening to her.
She owes her career to social media and TikTok, this she can admit, but of course – you’ve got to have the personality and core talent to flip streaming and follower success into an actual sustainable career. Rodriguez has already proven she’s got what it takes to take this thing a long way.
“[When] I started putting covers out there, I was like, ‘This could get me somewhere because I really love to sing, and I’d really like to do that as my career’. I was so fortunate to have been found and then signed by City Pop Records, which is crazy. I did not expect it to happen that fast. And then I got signed to Atlantic Records, which is also really insane.”
“It’s been so much fun, I’ve had so many opportunities. I’d had the chance to move out…growing up, my family didn’t have much money at all, so moving out at 18 was super huge to me. Being able to support myself was also crazy, just off of expressing myself?